A Mochi Exclusive with the Minds Behind "The Good Dinosaur" and "Sanjay’s Super Team"
With “The Good Dinosaur," Pixar and Disney have once again created a hit movie that’s guaranteed to pull on your heartstrings. Following the success of “Inside Out,” emotions come into play in a way that Disney fans may find very familiar. Without spoiling the movie, the film follows the journey of Arlo, a dinosaur who is deeply close to his family and must overcome his fears to discover what he’s truly capable of. There are parallels between Arlo and other classic Disney characters, but what makes this one so exciting is the director behind it, Peter Sohn, the first ever Asian American director to lead a Pixar Disney film. In true Pixar fashion, there’s a short film that’s just as exciting to look forward to as the main film. “Sanjay’s Super Team” was created and directed by Sanjay Patel—it's mostly based on Patel’s upbringing and features ethnic Indian characters, Hindu religious gods, and more. It’s a wonderful surprise and refreshing to see Pixar and Disney embrace different cultures and storytelling ideas.
The Good Dinosaur
Mochi Magazine: The graphics of the scenery and landscapes were life-like. What sort of technology and processes went into creating this dinosaur world?
Peter Sohn (director): It was always an effort to try to respect nature in that way, to honor it and recreate it so that it would serve its beauty and dangers. We wanted feel what it’s like to get lost in the wilderness. We shot in Wyoming because we were so inspired by the area and spent a lot of time in Jackson Valley and the Tetons where a lot of dinosaurs were found. Everywhere we went there was this extreme beauty and threatening sense of nature. We wanted to capture this quality so we hired a realism painter to purposely recreate these environments. Even with Arlo and Spot, we had to create this "boy in the dinosaur and his dog" relationship. We pushed Arlo in a direction so that he was a stranger in a strange land so that there was this possibility that he may not survive out there.
MM: There were hints of Disney moments in the movie, was this purposeful?
PS: Yes, similar to the films "Brave," "Nemo," and "Up," there is a lot of drama and pressures. This one grew into a father-son-turned-community story where the plot then got stuck creatively. I was asked to come in and brought it back in a simpler format.
Denise Ream (producer): We re-started a couple years ago after we shut it down and went all the way back to treatment stage—treatment, scripts, hammering on the story. We also had to re-jigger all the managers on board to get this film finished in the short time frame.
MM: How did you come up with the movement of the dinosaurs?
PS: We studied at various museums and dug deeper into paleontology. In order to achieve the motions Arlo and his family made we researched the column-like movement of elephants and giraffes. For the T-rexes we compared them to riders on a horse. In terms of characters for example, Arlo we wanted to see how teens looked and behaved and noticed how gangly and overgrown teenagers are and then with Spot we started off with dogs and looked into other animals as well for inspiration. This is one of Pixar's first films with a young character so this posed a challenge for us because we weren’t sure if we could actually tell a story of a child maturing and still capture the youthful element we were looking for.
Sanjay’s Super Team
Mochi Magazine: Who are your superheroes?
Sanjay Patel (director): Artists and writers I've studied in my life, including Chuck Jones, Richard Gary and many others.
MM: What brought you to incorporate superheroes into the short film?
SP: I didn't have that idea initially, but it was so obvious. I asked another story artist for his feedback and his first thought was “Have you ever thought of superheroes and deities instead of barbarians?”
MM: What are some challenges you faced as a child?
SP: Growing up there wasn't any drama, but as I got older I could really see how I tried so hard to fit in and cover up my ethnicity. I was really ashamed of it. I wanted to change my name to Travis. Being afraid of my identity, I tried everything possible to not be identified as Indian. It took me three years to find inspiration and after discovering Indian art it suddenly became easy to add this to my identity and it helped me feel proud of my skin, parent’s culture and religion.
Q: Asian Americans are having a high-profile moment in Hollywood. How did Sanjay's Super Team come to fruition?
Nicole Grindle (producer): It happened because of Sanjay's personal work. Sanjay raised his profile and John Lasseter recognized someone who is talented and is motivated by someone with great story telling.
SP: There was a big immigration wave in the '80s and a lot of Asians have grown up and finally found their footing and creative voice - I’m so excited about that, it's truly amazing.
Q: What are your thoughts of Master of None?
SP: I've been reading all the interviews of Aziz, and that guy is talented. He kicks ass! I saw one of his comedy specials and at the end of it he brings out his parents. He’s not afraid to show his community and the sacrifices parents like ours have made to come to this country. I'm not tuned out on that and neither is Aziz.
NG: Inside the studio, there were so many different positive reactions from all ethnicities and we are so excited to hear the amazing feedback.
SP: I said "no" to the opportunity at first because I didn't think Pixar would go for something like this. I just didn't believe their response but Lasseter constantly supported it and never tried to water it down.
Photo via CBSNews.com